HC Deb 18 February 1976 vol 905 cc1288-9
Mr. Newton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order concerns proceedings on today's Water Charges Bill. First, I seek your guidance on whether it is an abuse of the procedure of the House for the Bill to be pushed through in the way proposed. You will know that it had a short Second Reading last week—so short that many hon. Members were unable to make the points they wished to make and so short that Ministers were not even able to reply to the points that were made.

I understand that today it is proposed to put the Bill through both its Committee stage and its Report stage on the trot. Yet the Bill involves as much money as many Finance Bills and will have substantial financial effects for many of our constituents.

Secondly, if it is not possible for the House to be protected against this kind of steamrollering, I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on two specific points which would then arise. First, will manuscript amendments be accepted between Committee and Report and will there be reasonable time in which to table them? The other matter concerns the position in another place and the extent to which—in view of the Bill's financial importance—the House of Lords can amend the Bill. I understand that there may be some uncertainty about that. However, if we, in this place, are not able to do our job properly, it is important to establish clearly that there will be a proper opportunity in another place to do so.

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of the point of order that he wished to raise. It is in order for manuscript amendments to be submitted on Report when that stage follows immediately upon the Committee of the whole House. It has often happened that way. Any such amendments are subject to selection by me and I should, therefore, appreciate their being handed in to the Table Office or the Public Bill Office as far in advance as possible.

I turn to what may happen in another place. The hon. Gentleman will understand that I have no knowledge of the rules by which that House conducts its business. This House will have the usual opportunity to make up its mind about any amendments which may be made elsewhere. Should any matter of privilege be involved, the Chair will not fail to perform its duty in drawing the attention of the House to that fact.

Mr. Ridsdale

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I appreciate your courtesy and ruling about manuscript amendments, the difficulty is that we shall not have time to consult some interested parties.

Mr. Speaker

Unfortunately that is a common experience, as the hon. Gentleman knows.